(PARIS) — When Gio and Janelle Fuente visited the city of love in 2015, they hit all the main attractions — including the famed Ponts des Arts bridge, where the couple hung up a love lock, just like hundreds of thousands of couples before them.
Paris later took over a million of the locks down, fearing the added 45 metric tons of weight could cause the bridge to collapse.
“I remember literally telling my mom one time like, I hope ours survives somehow,” Janelle said.
Many were sold at a charity auction, but some were saved by a man who goes by Phileas Le Cléateur, dubbed the “Love Lock Savior” by French media.
Phileas designs jewelry and collects antique keys for inspiration. After the city announced it would be removing the locks, a couple in China looking for their lock stumbled upon his website and reached out to him, asking for help with their quest.
“I went to the bridge and I didn’t know what I could do there. I went there with keys and I tried to open one, two, three locks,” he said.
Phileas never found the Chinese couple’s lock, but, to his surprise, he found some of his keys could open up antique locks.
“At that time, I became the Love Lock Savior,” he told ABC. “I didn’t want all the love locks to go to the garbage.”
“I took the responsibility because I thought I was the only one who could do that,” he said.
Phileas amassed stacks and stacks of locks in his attic. Seven years later, he’s still trying to get them back to couples around the world. He’s been in touch with couples as far as Australia.
Among the more than 800 locks he was able to save, there was one with the names “Gio and Janelle Fuente.”
ABC was able to track the couple down in Florida, and Gio surprised Janelle with the lock as an early Valentine’s Day gift. The two are celebrating 20 years together this year.
“I was in shock, I would have never expected to see that again,” Janelle said.
Phileas also discovered a very special lock in his stash — one he believes might belong to a former presidential couple.
“It was very dirty, and one time I was cleaning it, and I saw ‘Michelle and Barack, love forever,’” he said.
“My first reaction was to say, it’s not possible,” he said. “And then I saw [the Obamas] went to Paris in 2009.”
ABC reached out to the Obamas’ office, but they couldn’t confirm the lock belonged to the former president and first lady. Two staffers who were on that Paris trip in 2009 told us they don’t remember a time when the Obamas could have gone to the Ponts des Arts to put the lock up.
Beyond the locks celebrating romantic love, Phileas also found family locks, friend locks and even one in memoriam, engraved with the name “Patricia Barnes,” along with a date of birth and a date of death.
“Every kind of love has to be expressed,” Phileas said.
Ultimately, the Love Lock Savior said what he’d really like is to hear each of these couples’ love stories, and share them with the world.
“I think just, the world needs love,” he said. “Love is the only thing that can save the world.”
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